South Sudan: Missing priest Fr Luke and his driver declared dead

South Sudan: Missing priest Fr Luke and his driver declared dead

The Diocese of Tombura Yambio in South Sudan has officially declared missing priest Father Luke Yugue Mbokusa and his driver Mr Michael Gbeko dead.

Paul Samasumo – Vatican City.

In an audio statement made available to Vatican News, Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of the Diocese of Tombura Yambio said it was with great regret that he announced the funeral of the priest and the driver.

Search continues for missing priest

“It is with deep sadness and great regret that we inform you of the official funeral prayers of our priest and colleague, Rev. Father Luke Yugue, and his driver, Michael Gbeko, who disappeared on April 27, 2024, while en route from Nagero. County to Tombura County. The funeral prayers will begin on Thursday, May 23-25, 2024 and will end with a Holy Funeral Mass on Saturday (May 25, 2024) at the Catholic parish of Saint Mary, Mother of God,” said the local Ordinary. He urged parishes in the diocese to observe the funeral days as announced.

Bishop Kussala continued: “Since that darkest Saturday, April 27, when Fr. Luke Yugue and Michael Gbeko disappeared. We have done many investigations to find them alive or dead, but unfortunately to no avail. As we enter this funereal period, our quest for Search, Truth and Justice will not stop,” he assured.

Call for calm and not revenge

Bishop Kussala was quick to appeal for calm and took time to dissuade any unilateral violent acts of revenge. He told the faithful of the diocese, friends and family that despite their pain and loss, they should hold on to the principles of the Gospel, their faith and let the law take its course.

Bishop Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura Yambio in South Sudan

Bishop Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura Yambio in South Sudan

“Because of the brutal way we can imagine, in which Fr. Yugue and his driver Gbeko died, many of us have been calling for revenge. Where is the Church in this? The Church gets the answer from it in the Scriptures. In John 18:10-11, we read about Jesus’ reaction when Peter took his sword and struck one of the people who came to arrest Jesus. Peter thought it was right to defend his master… As human beings, in situations like this, many of us believe that a sense of justice and closure can be achieved by taking the law into our hands. In fact, the pain, anger, loss, or contempt we feel for the perpetrator makes us believe that revenge should be the best path forward. But the Church says NO to that,” stated the Bishop.

Since Fr. Luke disappeared, social media has been flooded with political and ethnic insinuations about the missing couple. The fact that they disappeared in an area controlled by the SPLM-IO (Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition) does not help matters. Observers also note that many of South Sudan’s political parties are constituted along these ethnic lines. The SPLM-IO is led by Vice President Riek Machar.

Military sent to calm the region

Following the request of Bishop Kussala after the disappearance of Father Luke and his companion, the bishop requested the intervention of the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit. On 19 May 2024, Bishop Kussala expressed satisfaction that the President had sent Major General James Akech to help bring peace to Tombura.

“I had asked the president to declare a state of emergency throughout Tombura, and the president sent Major General James Akech. This man is doing a good job. He is already disarming the people and now the feeling of peace is returning to the area,” Bishop Kussala told the local Diocesan Assembly. Rurugen News.

Kidnappings of priests in Nigeria

Meanwhile, this week another Nigerian priest was kidnapped by unknown gunmen. The kidnapping of Father Oliver Buba of Yola Diocese on May 21 follows that of Father Basil Gbuzuo of Onitsha Diocese who was kidnapped on May 15 last week.

First there were the kidnappings by Boko Haram terrorists and then came the so-called bandits in Nigeria. The latter are criminal gangs that kidnap for ransom.

Recently, Nigerian Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Diocese of Sokoto was quoted in the media lamenting the exorbitant costs of rescuing priests, seminarians and other pastoral workers when they are kidnapped. “We have no more money to pay the kidnappers,” the bishop reportedly said.

Ordinary Nigerians resort to selling land, houses and other valuables to rescue their loved ones who have been kidnapped. It is a scourge that refuses to disappear despite the pronouncements of successive governments.